Focus On The Future

Vector is leading the country in creating a new energy future, investing in the growth of Auckland. Driving this new energy future means embracing change and innovation in an industry where multiple global trends like climate change, technology and demand for energy are converging rapidly.

In this context, business and market development is key to unlocking new opportunities and customer solutions.

An inspiring business woman doing this for Vector is Marie-Eve Bacon, General Manager Strategic Marketing and Business Development. We got the opportunity to chat to this hard-working businesswoman and talk success, energy, and the future.

In one word, how would you define ‘success’?

I don’t know if I can define it in just one word! Being able to implement the changes we are making for New Zealand, and welcoming in new energy solutions that offer sustainable ways of consuming energy, are really what drive me and make me happy. And being happy goes hand-in-hand with success. When you feel like you’re doing the right thing and working for the right purpose, it brings happiness, and in turn, success.

What is your role at Vector?

I lead the development and delivery of strategic marketing and business development initiatives.  One of my key focus areas is developing deep, collaborative and strategic relationships with business customers and partners to enhance our ability to manage their large energy needs. I have a team of highly competent, solution-oriented and commercially-driven individuals, and together we are enjoying seeing new energy solutions come to life that ultimately serve all New Zealanders. It is truly an exciting role!

Working with customers and business growth presents unique challenges. How do you approach them?

It’s about bringing the customer into the energy sector. Consumers are changing the way they think about energy consumption. They want to be part of the decisions. The planet is heating up like there’s no tomorrow and so we must do something about it. We want to make a difference.

For a company like Vector, it makes sense for us to engage with both sides of the solution, the customer and technology, and ask how we can find solutions that are viable both economically and for the country too.

What would you say motivates you the most?

Seeing commercially and technically savvy solutions adopted by customers. To me, it’s all about bringing products and services to market that advance how energy is consumed and generated. Ultimately, it’s about moving the sector forward in support of societal goals around sustainability and equity and helping transform how we, as a country, use and generate energy to achieve that. I am inspired by people who want to make a difference, and are not afraid to navigate uncharted territories.

You have a background in electrical engineering and 25 years experience in local and international energy roles. Drawing on your experiences, what advice would you give young business women navigating those sectors?

I would say: don’t let the engineering profession define you. Make the profession yours, keep working hard at what you believe in and don’t cut yourself short. Don’t let other people tell you what an engineer should or shouldn’t be.

Focus on one or two things that you are naturally good at and work hard at enhancing those skills. It doesn’t have to be technical. If you are already good at customer engagements, ‘level-up’ on that, so you can become known for your ability to build strong and effective relationships with people. Find your expertise early and focus on bringing out the best of it throughout your career.

What are the main challenges when it comes to commercialisation in the electricity sector?

To me, commercialisation means bringing new technology into the market by leveraging or developing business opportunities. In our sector, solutions are often complex and require a broad range of players to make them work, particularly from an end-to-end stand point. Each of those players has a different role to play and so we must evaluate how everyone fits together, how value to the customer is enhanced, and if the solution will provide commercial value.

The timing of innovation can also be its own challenge. Trying to commercialise too early can be difficult because customers may not see a need for your solution. Equally difficult, and not a good place to be in, is when the market already has many competitors with similar solutions.

That space in between is where my strength is. Potential customers don’t necessarily have clear ways to judge the value of new energy solutions. They may not, for example, have the mechanisms in place to build a business case that fully encompasses the value of an innovative solution – that is, beyond financial measurements and quantification. I’m trying to lead on helping those customers make those evaluations so they are not missing out on solutions that could benefit their businesses.

What do you think the future of energy looks like?

In the next decade, we’ll be moving further into decentralisation, leveraging solar generation, batteries, and a convergence of digitally connected technologies across networks. I can see our industry transforming through the creation of many different energy models. This is key; that the energy future will not be a one size fits all type of energy model as it has been until now. Various energy models will be developed to suit specific needs at macro and micro levels encompassing countries, cities, communities and individual customers. All of this will depend on resource availability, country-specific regulations, assets, access to technologies, customer demands, and importantly the speed in which we are addressing climate change. Ultimately, the energy future we want to see is one of equitable access to new energy solutions, prices coming down, and all of us working together to help the planet decarbonise.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

It is very hard to think of THE best piece of advice as I have received many throughout my career! One that resonated with me and is relevant to the work I do now is that sometimes the pace of change is so fast that if you blink, you’ll miss it. I’ve understand that to mean we cannot wait for things to happen to us or for us. Progress doesn’t always follow an easy, clear path and it is up to us to lead the way. So I try to stay focused, informed and relentlessly search out the best solutions for customers so they, too, don’t miss a thing.

For more information about Vector, and details about roles that are available now, visit www.vector.co.nz/womenleadership